There are some of us who are natural-born leaders – no matter what we do, people want to work alongside us and follow our vision. For many of us, however, leadership is something that is learned over time, and developed by overcoming one challenge after another. In today’s post-COVID world, leadership has become even more crucial, yet harder than ever to navigate with all of our new work and life circumstances.
Having been leadership coaches for so many years, we’ve noticed some common mistakes that leaders make across all industries and company sizes. The good news is these can be avoided!
Based on our years of time spent in this field, here are 8 common mistakes leaders should be aware of:
1. Time to Shift your Focus
The transition from a solo-performer to leadership can be a difficult one. The bottom line is, the job is no longer about you – it is about your people!
Your job is no longer about completing your own tasks, but to multiply the performance of your team, and empowering them to become the best version of themselves. You are here for them, not for you (as difficult as that is to believe).
If you’re used to doing things on your own, or a superstar performer in your own work, it can be tough to recognize that if you do great, but your team falls short, ultimately you did not fulfill your role as a leader. It’s a tough pill to swallow for some, but once you change your focus from YOU to THEM, you’ve taken the first step to becoming a great leader.
2. Lack of Trust
It’s important to remind ourselves that the workplace is a collection of (usually) mature, respectable adults. Therefore, we should treat each other with the respect and trust needed for any productive human relationships. If we micro-manage, poke holes, or criticize all the work of our teams, they will become highly disengaged employees (this is a huge problem today: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/313313/historic-drop-employee-engagement-follows-record-rise.aspx)
There are some important things you can do before you hire an employee to enhance your chances of having a cohesive, trustworthy team (https://xqinnovation.com/before-you-hire/):
- Make sure their behavior fits the job activities they do each day
- Make sure what motivates them matches the rewards system you have at your company
- Ensure the soft skills and competencies of the employee match the job requirements
- Radical Candor – be sure to be extremely honest and transparent about expectations, requirements, and KPI’s needed to properly satisfy the job description
All of the aforementioned steps can easily be completed using XQ assessments: https://xqinnovation.com/assessments/
3. Lack of Emotional Intelligence
If we had to give a single piece of advice to current or future leaders, it would be to work on their emotional intelligence. EQ measures our ability to identify, regulate, and process our emotions. Humans are emotional beings, as much as we like to think of ourselves as highly logical. Most of our decisions are made based on emotion (https://bigthink.com/experts-corner/decisions-are-emotional-not-logical-the-neuroscience-behind-decision-making)
Since emotions play such a huge role in our decision making process, it stands to reason that it would be an important part of leadership – after all, leadership is about making good decisions.
Its also important for the leader themselves! Higher EQ will help you stay calm, relaxed, and avoid burn-out. When there is a crisis, your EQ will allow you to be the consistent and steady force that your team needs to navigate difficult challenges. Furthermore, 63% of millennials feel a lack of leadership development in their workplaces, so this is a huge problem when you consider they already make up a majority of the workforce.
4. Lack of Personal Development
There is a certain feeling we get when we are at the top – “I’ve made it!” is a common sentiment we might all feel. After all, if you are the leader or boss at your organization, where do you go from there?
Sadly, this is a mindset that often leaves leaders feeling stagnant and stuck. Worse yet, the gap between leaders who work on themselves vs. those who don’t can grow very quickly. Because of this, the best leaders are constantly developing their growth mindset.
One of the greatest competitive advantages you can attain as a leader are your own competencies, emotional development, and overall leadership skills. If you feel that you’re “too good” for training and development, or have no time for it, then you’ll likely see the negative impacts of that as the years roll on.
5. Do you have Mentors and Coaches?
Over the years we’ve often heard mixed feelings from top performers regarding the idea of having coaches or mentors. At the end of the day, even Michael Jordan followed a great coach. Without proper coaching and training, top performers and leaders will often fall short of their full potential.
Its important to have a coach or mentor that you can trust completely, expands your thinking, can be a soundboard, and an overall “cheat code” to getting to your destination quicker and with less choppy waters. There is also the fact that it is often lonely at the top – it is very difficult for CEO’s or company leaders because there are so few people in similar roles to you. Do they understand what you’re going through?
This is one of the primary reasons to find a terrific mentor in your life and expand your leadership capabilities.
6. How are you Communicating?
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. – George Bernard Shaw
This quote really sums up one of the biggest challenges for leaders. There are many ways we can miscommunicate in the workplace;
- Lack of awareness of all the personality types in the workplace and how they communicate
- Lack of behavioral training in the organization
- No overall communications strategy
- CEO has a clear vision, but employees don’t understand it or believe in it
- People don’t feel comfortable or safe saying what they really think
Just because you’re the boss, doesn’t mean you can skip engaging in highly effective communication. In fact, one of the prerequisites of good leadership is the ability to influence people. Also, you may have been thinking of a problem for months, and others may not have thought about it at all. It may take them longer to get their mind around an idea.
The first thing to do is ensure the company has a shared common language. We like to use DISC behavioral science and have some of the best tools to measure DISC.
In addition, its important to know the communication style of your direct reports as a leader. You will likely have to modify or adjust your approach for each of your direct reports to let them feel you are speaking their language and understand where they’re coming from.
7. Have Strong Values
Simply put, the leader sets the tone for the ethics, morals, and values of the organization. The consistency with which we speak, behave, and act will determine the respect our team has for us a leader. The leader is the most visible person in the organization, so that makes this all the more crucial.
Forbes shared that “92% of CEO’s feel their organization is empathetic, but only 50% of their employees say their CEO is empathetic.” This is a very damaging and disappointing statistic. What is happening in our workplaces that is making employees feel this way?
We believe this comes from a lack of value-driven leadership. If what we say and put on the walls in the office differs from how employees perceive the behavior of the leader, you can expect your team to develop a lack of engagement and start to check-out.
No one said leadership is easy. People will keenly observe what we do, not so much what we say. As the example of the company, don’t underestimate just how impactful it can be when people really believe you are an authentic, honest, and high-integrity leader.
8. Do you have boundaries?
As leaders, we are the one setting the standard in the workplace for everyone else to follow. We also set the tone in terms of how we communicate, our work ethic, and work-life-balance.
If we are a workaholic and send emails very late at night expecting a response, we’re probably in the wrong. Not only are we putting ourselves at risk for burning out, but we put undue pressure on our direct reports. It also sends the message that we can’t complete our daily duties in a reasonable amount of time, which causes more discouragement.
There is a delicate balance between efficiency and effectiveness. It is the constant juggling act between doing things quickly and cost-effectively and weighing that against the final end-result. If you focus too much on one or the other, you take your team out of balance and will either burn them out, yourself, or both.
Encourage your team to have a good life, and be good at their job – it is possible to do both! Give them the resources to do so, but it all starts with the example you set for them.
Move Forward as a Better Leader
There’s a reason we call these common mistakes, because they happen in so many different settings and organizations – but there is no reason to worry. The good news is that if you’re focused on improvement and take the first step, you are on the right road to mitigating some of these mistakes that leaders often make.
Reach out to XQ today and take the first steps to developing your leadership team!